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City Council Discusses Flying Gadsden Flag on Fourth of July

don't tread on me

Photo: Wikipedia

By Renée Morin

The agenda of the July 2 City Council meeting included whether to fly the Gadsden flag, also known as the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag, outside of City Hall this Fourth of July. A request to fly the flag was made by Councilor Jonathan Martell. His request was in compliance with the resolution adopted by the council on July 5, 2022, regarding the display of flags other than the national, state, or P.O.W. flags on city property.

The legal restrictions on the flying of flags required the city’s flag policy to be in compliance with US Supreme Court rulings addressing government speech, to be non-discriminatory, to not promote any religion or political affiliation and to comply with the US Flag Codes. A review done in June 2024 found the city’s policy was in compliance with these restrictions.

The discussion began with the reading of two emails from Sanford Springvale News volunteers. Kevin McKeon wrote that the flag was flown by American ships during the American Revolution. “The snake was a symbol of trying to fire up the people to convince them to join the revolution.”

Zendelle Bouchard conveyed her opposition to the request on the grounds that the original use of the Gadsden flag was to protest the undemocratic colonial rule of the British government. In Bouchard’s view, many who fly the flag today are attempting to equate the British rule the colonists rebelled against to our democratically elected government. She doesn’t believe this is an appropriate message for the City Council to convey about another elected assembly.

Bouchard also argued that requests to fly the Gadsden flag were motivated by a desire to discourage the display of the Pride flag by overwhelming the City Council with requests. She believes the display of the Pride flag is a moral issue rather than a political one and is not comparable to the Gadsden flag.

Councilor Robert Stackpole shared his view that the flag is from the American Revolution, regardless of its modern usage. He questioned the benefit to the community of flying the Gadsden flag. It’s his opinion that displaying the Pride flag benefits the people of Sanford-Springvale, but flying the Gadsden flag would not.

Martell shared that he doesn’t think any flags other than the national, state, or P.O.W. flags should be flown outside of City Hall. Martell continued, “So, my reasoning for requesting this was to bring to light the fact that you can request any flag, and personally I don’t think that that should be even in our policies.” He then made a request to revisit the policy in the future and informed the council he would not be moving forward with his original request.

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